Trip Start Aug 01, 2009
10Trip End Sep 21, 2009
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We have no maps. No reservations. No itinerary. To make matters more interesting, we’re driving. Unless you’ve actually tried to contort yourself into the backseat of Chad’s clownishly small car, you may not understand the gravity of that statement. We’re talking about a 1992 Toyota Passeo carrying 200,000 miles; there’s no A/C, a huge crack in the windshield, and the wipers are temperamental. Still, the car would take us on this and many road trips to come without dying—it may well be a member of theTransformers
During our trip we’ve planned to stop in Memphis first. We have so many stories about this city alone—locals mistaking us for two romantically involved men and directing us to a gay bar, talking with the homeless who tired to sell me flowers out of a street planter not six feet away, scrawling juvenile jokes and drawings on the wood paneling of a total dive bar—but the apex of our Memphis misadventure is set where all truly worthwhile tales are set: the local pub.
We’re from Wisconsin; our state mantra is "Roll out the Barrel" and we are the home of the nation’s second-largest brewing company. Like baseball, drinking is our national pastime, and we take it seriously. So seriously, in fact, that University of Wisconsin students have been banned from spring break drinking contests in Florida and Mexico, for fear they would sweep the competition. Bearing this in mind, Chad and I set out to find a palatable Memphis brew.
We found our diamond in the rough: a small local bar far away from the chincy downtown tourism. One look around the place says it all. There’s about a dozen townies all clad in either sweat pants or denim overalls; some are hunkered around a pool table, others lean against a Wurlitzer as it twangs the country blues
“Chad!” I hiss. “Is it just me, or are they looking at us?”
Always calm and levelheaded, Chad is unperturbed as we grab our stools at the bar. Although we’re the only customers at the counter, the bartender doesn’t seem to notice, and goes on chatting with his buddy. Several minutes pass. I drum my fingers on the counter to get the bartender’s attention. The bartender keeps whispering to his pal, looking at us every so often.
“Chad, I think he’s talking about us.”
“Nah, it’s all good.” He shrugs.
The minutes tick away. Finally the bartender saunters over to us wiping the counter with an old towel. In a thick Tennessee drawl he declares, “This here’s a private party.”
Chad and I exchange glances. “Excuse me sir, but the door was wide open and we walked right in
“We’re from out of town, we just want a beer.” Chad chimes in.
The bartender continues to wipe the counter, looking at us, sizing us up, then tells us “Well, we’re about to close down for the night, so y’all are gonna hafta leave.”
Now, I know we party hard in 'Sconny, but I’ve never heard of a pub closing at 8:30 PM, especially when the other patrons seem to be in no hurry to finish their drinks. The sudden realization hits Chad and I simultaneously: we have been refused service. As I stand there in disbelief and haughty indignation, Chad calmly leads me to the door, where we expectorate deposits of saliva as a token of our appreciation. So much for Southern hospitality.
We leave the bar and head to an Irish pub instead; a bit of a paradox here in Memphis, but the Guinness is cold and the folks are friendly. When I think about the chain of events leading up to this moment, I really can’t say I understand why we were treated so poorly. Is it because we look like the dirty hippie type? Or are we damn Yankees? I just couldn’t say. Nevertheless it was a humbling experience. I'm not the first to be refused service, and I certainly won’t be the last. Through this bizarre happenstance, I am reminded to not always feel such a sense of entitlement, even in the most mundane of tasks.